Music brings Israelis, Arabs together
Daniel Barenboim brought Israeli and Arab musicians together for a concert that was as much about renewing communication as it was about Beethoven and Mozart.
Famed conductor Daniel Barenboim on Sunday brought Israeli and Arab musicians together in the West Bank for a concert that was as much about renewing channels of communication as it was about Beethoven and Mozart.
Barenboim, born in Argentina and raised in Israel, has often appeared in Ramallah, where he has encouraged young Palestinian musicians to rise above the atmosphere of constant tension and perform.
On Sunday he brought in an orchestra with musicians from Israel and Syria, countries that are bitter enemies. The 700-seat Ramallah concert hall was filled, with many standing in the aisles and doorways while others watched on closed-circuit television in a nearby hall. This was the first time that the orchestra, whose 100 musicians come from Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, has performed in Ramallah. Some of the musicians traveled to the West Bank on travel documents issued by the Spanish government in order to circumvent political barriers.
The concert was held in memory of the Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said, who died in 2003. Barenboim and Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Workshop and Orchestra in 1999. Symbolically, the orchestra is based in Seville, the capital of Spain's southern region of Andalucia, where Muslims, Christians and Jews created a flourishing culture during the Middle Ages.
Nadeem Hassan, a 21-year-old student at the Damascus Music College and one of 10 Syrians in the orchestra, said he was eager to meet Israelis face-to-face. "When I got to know them. I found that they were normal people. Some of them are creative in their work and I learned a lot from them," he said.
Tal Reval Theodorou, 23, an Israeli violist, believes that "it's important for (the people of) our area to know each other. We all understand that we need peace so we meet in this forum and we have human relationships, not a political relationship."
At a news conference, Barenboim repeated his theme that peace must prevail. "There are two peoples who have a very deep attachment to this part of the world, and either we all kill each other or we learn to live with the fact that we have to share this land in equality and dignity," he said.
Palestinian Minister of Culture Yahya Yakhlif praised Barenboim for backing Palestinian positions against Israeli occupation.